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Baroness Andrews: My Lords, as the noble Baroness well knows, we work with women because they are underrepresented as leaders in the community. They have a great deal to give and have a great reach into those communities. Our leadership programmes concentrate on women for that very reason. She will know that men in the Muslim communities—this is a rather mischievous question—are very well represented. Of course, we engage through NMWAG and through our interfaith work with all members of the community, and having young people helping Cabinet Ministers is an extremely progressive way forward.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are in the 24thminute now.

National DNA Database


3 pm

Asked By Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the Government mounted a robust defence before the court and are disappointed by its findings. We continue to believe that DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and will now carefully consider how best to give effect to the court’s findings. We recognise the importance of the judgment and will publish our responses and a timeline to the court’s findings as soon as possible. At this stage, the existing law on taking and retaining DNA and fingerprints remains in place.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which was not entirely clear to me. I must ask him again whether the Government intend unequivocally to abide by the judgment of the court. What has the Home Office contingency team, which is in place, laid down as a contingency with police forces to remove the DNA of all the innocent people who ask for it to be removed from the database forthwith?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the UK Government are bound by international law to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights was established to protect the interests of us all. However, it will be for the UK Government and Parliament to

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consider how best to give effect to the judgment. We established a contingency planning group earlier this year to look at the potential implications of a violation judgment. The group has been dealing with a hypothetical situation up until four or five days ago, and it will now focus its planning on the implications of the judgment.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that this country should be proud of the fact that we developed DNA technology and probably lead the world in its use? Does he also agree that as well as establishing the guilt of people who are guilty, it also helps to establish the innocence of those who are not guilty, thereby securing justice—which is in everybody’s interests—and upholding human rights, rather than the opposite?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Keeping DNA and fingerprints on the database has no impact on the innocent. It does not affect their employment or travel, unlike arrest, which is looked at. We should be proud of the fact that of the 200,000 DNA profiles that were taken between May 2001, when the Criminal Justice and Police Act was passed, and 2005, 8,500 have been linked with crime- scene profiles involving 14,000 offences, including 114 murders, 55 attempted murders, 116 rapes and so on. We should be proud of our capability, which has now been introduced worldwide.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, the European Court pointed out that we are alone in Europe in having totally indiscriminate use of this material. It particularly focused on Scotland as an example of good practice. Is there anything to stop the Government implementing the judgment soon by making a remedial order under the Human Rights Act to put English law in the same position as Scottish law?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I stated before, we are now looking at the implications. We will have to come up with an answer to the Committee of Ministers by March 2009. In doing that, we will look at lots of options, and that may be one. One has to remember that the necessary legislation for what we are doing went through Parliament, and the House of Lords upheld the appeal in the S and Marper case. Our policy is aimed at tackling crime and bringing offenders to justice. We will have to look at the full implications of this.

Baroness Hanham:My Lords, would the Minister accept that the amendment put forward by this side of the House during the latter stages of the Counter-Terrorism Bill, which was rejected by the other place on privilege grounds, on the DNA database and on statutory guidelines for those who are on it about how they could get off it, anticipated well the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights? Would it not have served the Government better if it had been accepted?

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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness is trying to luff me into a difficult position here yet again. I certainly could not accept that and cannot comment on what the other place said, as it was an issue of privilege.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, although there may well be a superficial attraction to the argument that a totally innocent person need fear nothing from the retention of his or her DNA sample, the European Court said that the maintaining of such a sample in the case of a person who had not been convicted was disproportionate. With great respect, it seems to me that either we accept that or we fly in the face of that judgment. What attitude are the Government going to take in what seems to me to be such a white-and-black situation?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I hope I made clear, we accept that judgment. We are bound by law to accept it and we do. We now have to look at what measures we take to achieve that. The judgment also recognised what value that procedure had been in arresting and finding guilty some very unpleasant people who would have caused a lot of damage to our society.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, Section 82 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act only gave the Government power to retain samples indefinitely; it did not oblige them to do so. What instructions have been given to, for example, Special Branch officers who are at present taking samples from innocent British travellers coming through Heathrow and retaining them indefinitely? Will that practice cease?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, at the risk of being boring, I say again that we are looking at all options. At the moment, however, we remain as is because legislation passed by this House is in place. Until we come up with changes to our recommendations—as I said, we must come up with proposals by March 2009—nothing will change. There are also issues with operational implications. For example, if someone is at this moment being tried for rape and he was caught because of retained samples, will that be allowed to continue? Perhaps we will have to set him free; I do not know. We will have to look at all those issues.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to impose duties upon certain persons and bodies in respect of disabled persons; to confer certain rights upon disabled persons for independent living; to amend the Mental Health Act 1983; to amend the Health and Social Care Act 2008; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Ashley of Stoke, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

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Deputy Chairmen of Committees

Communications Committee

Constitution Committee

Membership Motions

3.08 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

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Motions agreed.

European Union Committee

Membership Motion

3.09 pm

Moved By The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, while giving my strongest support to all the other committees and the excellent work that they do, I query the balance and usefulness of your Lordships’ European Union Committee and therefore its reappointment today. I regret that there is no Motion on the Order Paper to that effect, but the committee membership Motion was tabled overnight and there did not appear to be an opportunity to table one.

I objected to last year’s committee appointment because of its lack of balance. I could identify only one Eurosceptic on it, in the shape of my noble friend Lord Blackwell, who has now left the committee. Looking at this year’s proposed committee of 19 Peers, which we are now asked to approve, I can see eight of the most ardent Europhiles in your Lordships’ House, including the chairman, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Roper. I do not know enough about the other 11 to be certain, but I cannot recognise a single Eurosceptic among them.

That is worrying because it means that the committee will be very out of tune with the British people, whom your Lordships’ House is usually so good at representing. Our latest indication of the feelings of our people towards the EU came on 20 October in a referendum in Luton, which was run by ITV News under the chairmanship of Sir Trevor McDonald, no less. The result was a groundbreaking 54 per cent who now want to leave the European Union completely and 63 per cent who would have voted against the Lisbon treaty.

There are, I am afraid, two other reasons for querying the usefulness of this committee and its sub-committees. First, we have the continuing scandal of the Government having promised not to sign up to any new law in Brussels when it is still under scrutiny in the committee

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of either House of Parliament, but breaking that promise, or overriding the scrutiny reserve, no fewer than 180 times in the Lords and 157 times in the Commons between 2003 and June 2006. That is 337 new laws that have been passed into law in this country in breach of the wishes of Parliament. I have tabled a Written Question to find out what has happened since.

However, perhaps the main reason for querying the usefulness of this committee was revealed in a series of Written Answers in the previous Session to my noble friends Lord Tebbit and Lord Vinson. They asked how often a recommendation of either House’s Select Committee had been incorporated into EU legislation in Brussels. After much prevarication about disproportionate cost and so on, the Government could come up with only one example, on 10 March 2008, when they revealed that your Lordships’ committee’s,

There may be other examples in which the views of your Lordships’ Select Committees have been accepted in Brussels, but I submit that they must be very few. I am therefore left wondering whether it is worth going on with it and its many sub-committees. I would have thought that the undoubted skills of the noble Lords who sit on those committees, and of the clerks who so bravely and magnificently support them, could be better employed examining other issues to the benefit of the people whom we are here to serve.

Lord Tordoff: My Lords—

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords—

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I hope that we might keep proceedings reasonably short this afternoon, as there are a lot of speakers for the main debate, which the House is no doubt looking forward to.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, did not put down his Motion again this year. The timetabling of my Motion is, I think, exactly the same as it was last year. The Committee of Selection met yesterday. A Motion was tabled to agree the proposed membership of this committee and the Motion was put down on the Order Paper for today. However, I can give the noble Lord advance notice that, next year, the Motion will be tabled at more or less exactly the same time as it has been this year and as it was last year, the year before and the year before that, so there should be no surprise about it.

What has surprised me is this. During the year, I have been eagerly anticipating the noble Lord nominating either himself or a friend, if any, to sit on this committee because he complains about its membership. He says that very few of its members are Eurosceptics and that most are Europhiles. I would not dream of trying to categorise all the people whom we are putting on to this committee today. What is missing is his own amendment to put himself down for it. We have not seen such an amendment. Perhaps we can look forward to that next year.

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Lord Tordoff: My Lords, I know that the noble Lord wishes to keep this debate short, but I believe that the House is getting a little tired of the protestations of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, year on year. What he said today suggests that there is a fault not with the Select Committee but with the House itself and that the Government are failing to take notice of what this House, working on the basis of the committee, puts forward. That is totally out of order—or, if it is not out of order, it is really rather insulting to this Chamber.

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